A new professional graphics card announced by AMD this week aims to appeal to artists working on 3D content for virtual reality (VR) applications. Dubbed the Radeon Pro Duo, the card boasts two separate graphics processing units (GPUs), support for up to four 4K monitors or a single 8K monitor.

The graphics card (pictured above) was unveiled yesterday at the National Association of Broadcasters Show taking place in Las Vegas this week. AMD said the card's ability to handle larger data sets, more complex 3D models, higher resolution video, and more complex assemblies will appeal to businesses and creative professionals in the media, entertainment, broadcast, manufacturing, and design sectors.

Not Waiting for Vega

The card uses AMD’s Polaris architecture, a GPU built on a 14-nanometer manufacturing process the company first introduced last year with its Radeon 400 series graphics cards. The Polaris GPUs include the fourth-generation Graphics Core Next graphics instruction set.

The choice of using the Polaris architecture for a graphics card pitched as a top-of-the-line professional-grade model may seem a little surprising. The Polaris architecture is designed more for energy efficiency than raw computing power. Later this year, AMD is expected to launch a more advanced chip, the Vega, to serve as its flagship graphics card. That chip is believed to be capable of up to 12.5 TFLOPS, versus the Radeon Pro Duo’s 11.45 FLOPS.

However, AMD seems to be betting that the energy-saving qualities of the Polaris architecture will appeal to creative professionals as much or more than the Vega's expected computing superiority, which is not to say that the Radeon Pro Duo is underpowered. Its double GPU design should allow it to outcompete similar professional graphics cards, particularly in the realm of multitasking, according to the company.

Divide and Conquer

Better multitasking seems to be the theme AMD aims to hang its hat on with the Radeon Pro Duo. The inclusion of two independent GPUs will enable users to commit separate GPUs to different tasks, allowing them to switch between different applications more quickly and without interrupting resource-intensive workloads, such as rendering 3D assets. On some applications, AMD said the Radeon Pro Duo offers up to double the performance of its Radeon Pro WX 7100.

That should make the card particularly attractive to creative professionals developing content for VR applications, the company said. With two GPUs, the Pro Duo will be able to render out separate images for each eye for faster creation of 3D assets and environments.

Besides the appeal offered by the dual-GPU divide and conquer strategy, the card also features 32 GB of memory to support working with larger data sets. AMD said the card will be available by the end of May, and will be priced around $999.